Will Hate Win?

Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we’ve suffered, to forgive the one who inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.

I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched the late news last night. I don’t normally watch because the stories always make me feel heavy. The weight of the world seems to settle on my shoulders as I wonder how, as a human race – setting aside race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation – but as a human race we have become so goddamned full of hate.

Then one by one, the family members of the victims’ in the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting stood in front of the man who murdered the people they loved and held dearest in their hearts, people they will never see, hear, or touch again…and they forgave him.

“I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her ever again. But I forgive you.”

“You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you.”

“You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know… And it will never be the same. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you. May God have mercy on you.”

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate…everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived and loved and their legacies will live on…..Hate won’t win.”

Hate won’t win.

Those three words were the last I heard before I went to sleep last night and are still there this morning.  I want desperately to hold on to them, to believe them. I pray to a deity to which my belief wavers from day to day and I wonder if it’s possible.

How far gone are we as a race? As a human race?

I know there is good in the world. I see it every day. Sadly, I see far too much more hate and prejudice and it is no wonder I feel so tired. I have brought children into a world where they have to learn to hide under desks or in closets and locked, gated fences are put around elementary schools to keep out those who would do them harm. And for what?

Hate. Anger. Mental illness. Belief in a cause that resents our freedom.

We go to the movies, to church, to the grocery store….the simple act of driving a car down the freeway and these all become a crap shoot.

Kids are beat up and mentally tortured for being different, or just being themselves.

Husbands kill wives, wives kill husbands. They kill their own children in the heat of a moment to hurt one another.

Children are neglected and abused, going to bed hungry because we live in a society where getting rich and gaining power is more important than taking care of our fellow man, making sure familes are fed, clothed, and have a place to lay their head at night that doesn’t sit on four tires.

Evil preys on our children, both inside and outside the family, and it knows no boundaries.

There are so many, many more stories on the evening news and some we will never even hear about. Every moment, anger and hate are perpetuated and we are fully on guard every time something like Charleston happens. Or are we?

Has this become the new normal?

I despise the idea that this is a very large part of the world my children are growing up in.

What Dylan Roof did was wrong. It was evil personified. But what those family members of his victims did was goodness and mercy. I am sure they will be relieved to see justice served but in their own hearts today, I hope they find peace. They have done themselves a great service. They have fostered a spirit of love and forgiveness, turning from the perpetuation of hate and offering hope.

It doesn’t make the world perfect. There will still be prejudice and judgment, bullying and violence. I know, in all honesty, that if someone was to hurt someone I love, just the thought of it boils my blood and vengeance is the first thought I have.

Perhaps I was crying with a mixture of emotion, realizing that what these people were doing was monumental, but knowing in my heart I would never be able to do what they have done….offer forgiveness to someone who took someone so precious to me.

Obviously there should be forgiveness, if for no other reason than to rest our own weary souls and to teach the next generation that it can be done…that love, compassion, grace, and mercy do still exist on this messy planet.

Can we learn, as hard as it might be, to forgive?

Of course, this is not to be confused with forgetting or becoming complacent. But obviously, fighting back, not with vengeful, unnecessary violence, but forgiveness is possible.

Is this the way to learn as well as to teach that hate won’t win and  to begin healing a broken race?

Or are we too late?



Photo credit: flickr.com

Public Shaming – Parenting Win or Abuse?

There is outrage on the internet which I’m sure comes as no surprise.

A thirteen year old Tacoma girl ended her life by jumping off of a bridge. Many are blaming the girl’s father for her suicide due to a 15 second video posted on YouTube in which she is shown blankly staring at into the camera with her newly cropped hair. The camera pans to a pile of long dark locks laying on the floor of what looks to be a garage.

The reasons for the hair cut aren’t clear and there are few words said on the video but apparently the girl, Izabel, did something her father found unacceptable and this was the consequence he chose as punishment.

There are reports that Izabel’s father is not the person who uploaded the video to the internet, that it was a family friend. Some of the people chiming in with their opinions didn’t even know Izabel. There will always be people looking for their fifteen seconds and, as a side note, shame on them for choosing a thirteen year old girl’s suicide to find it.

Perhaps it isn’t my place and the story is still developing but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that there may have been other issues that contributed to Izabel’s suicide. Perhaps this was just the proverbial straw. Only time will tell.

Regardless of who uploaded the video, this is an episode among many of a new found way of punishing our children – public shaming. We’ve all seen the cute little kids in the ‘get along shirt’ and it gave us all a good laugh and we mentally high five the mom because it’s just too damn cute.

But we also see older kids and teens on the street corners or in front of a school with posters and sandwich boards publicly shouting out their infractions, their faces grim and who knows what thoughts reeling through their heads.

At what point does this public shaming become harmful, maybe bordering on abusive? When does this punishment actually fit the crime? What unseen damage is being done?

As a parent, I would never choose to publicly humiliate my child. I believe in consequences but I’m not going to condone adding public, and sometimes possibly viral, humiliation to the tween and teenage psyche that is perhaps already riddled with angst and confusion. That seems to me like throwing fuel on a fire.

When one of my children was younger, they walked out of a store with a pack of gum in their pocket. They have been taught that stealing is wrong and when we do something that isn’t right, there are consequences. I turned the car around, brought my child back to the store, and I waited at the door while they went to the counter and returned the pack of gum to the cashier with an apology. Was that embarrassing? Yes. Did they learn a lesson? Yes. Was it followed up with a good talking to about consequences for their actions? Yes. Was it splattered all over the internet in pictures or video? No.

I understand that the things some kids are doing are more serious than a stolen pack of gum but my point is this:

There is a better way to handle things than putting their face in front of a crowd and risking them feeling that the world sees them as ‘bad’, so why bother to try and be good. Kids will make mistakes, and again I reiterate that there should be consequences, but is adding insult to injury the answer? Or does it only cause more harm?

It is our job to love and protect our children. It is also our job to teach them. Can we not teach them without the world being witness and increasing the feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, or failure they may already be feeling?

I just have to ask…

How many times does this method actually work?

How many times does it backfire?

Perhaps, most importantly….is it worth the risk?


Photo credit: greyerbaby on Morguefile

What Lies Behind the Filter

It started with an over-filtered photo on a social media tag.

I was tagged for #stopdropandselfie on Instagram. I saw the notification while I was sitting in the car line, bored to tears. I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail, accentuating my big forehead, but I had taken a shower that morning and did at least have some makeup on. I wasn’t scary so I figured…why not?

I don’t take a lot of selfies. If you check my Instagram feed you’ll certainly find a few but mostly you will find photos of my kids, my dog, books, and pints of Ben & Jerry’s. I took the photo, posted it and went about my day.  Later, when I put on my glasses and really looked at the photo I looked fuzzy. And plastic. I looked like me, but flawless me. So…not me.

I absolutely do not look like this…well, I do…but not really.

Later that evening I felt compelled to make this right. I took picture after picture and still couldn’t figure out how to edit out the editing. Then, I saw it. The little profile of a woman’s head at the top of the screen. I tapped it and slid my finger left, relinquishing perfection for honesty. I still look a little airbrushed but that’s due to the fact that I was apparently sitting next to a good lamp and still had makeup on. I have freckles that are covered by that makeup but this is me….dark circles, forehead wrinkles, lines around the eyes earned with each day of my 47 years.

No filter
That’s a little more like it.

Two photos. One overly airbrushed nonsense and one real with no smoke and mirrors, just a touch of Dermablend.

Pictures are wonderful snippets of a view into our lives, a highlight reel if you will, and can certainly tell a story. But is it the real story?

We spend time creating an idea that what we are doing, and more importantly how we are doing in the time it takes for the click of the camera and to add a few filters is so much better than it really is.

We mask internal pain by smiling brightly then removing the flaws, the parts that make us real, show us as we truly are. We add a filter, adjust the light, and perfect the contrast as if our measure of happiness lives and dies in that one moment.

On social media, we decide what we want others to see and what we don’t. Photos are filtered and words are edited because we want to look as if we’re living better on the outside in order to hide what is dying on the inside.

I will admit that my life looks better on social media than it does in the real world. I edit photos. I am more apt to share the happier moments. I leave out altogether the less than stellar moments that aren’t easy to make pretty.

I don’t do this because I’m vain. I do this because I was raised to believe you don’t ever show, much less spotlight, the bad side. You stuff your feelings and hide the truth. Always put your best face forward and if you can’t say something nice, say it behind closed doors.

That was much easier to do in the decades before social media. Today, we can get up to the minute status updates and photos with the push of a button and swipe of a finger. Or the push of a few buttons and a few swipes of the finger, a little editing and filtering….it has to look or sound just so.

Everyone has that one Facebook friend. The friend who is always happy. The friend whose kids are headed for epic greatness. The friend who travels the world, eating the best food and swimming in the bluest oceans. That friend whose husband never passes gas and sends flowers weekly. They never, ever have a bad day.

I scroll through Pinterest and see the amazing things people do to their homes, the meals both edible and beautiful, the fun DIY projects, endlessly perfect bodies, nails, hair, makeup….the list goes on….my eyes glaze over, my mouth waters a little, and I wish for a prettier everything.

Instagram is full of more spectacular edited and enhanced moments. I scroll through some days and feel less than…less exciting, less pretty, less happy. Worse, some days I feel envious which, in turn, makes me feel ashamed.

Being a writer, these social media outlets are necessary evil. When I am actually doing this thing I love, I use them every day. Those are the days I can scroll through and I am inspired and genuinely thrilled for the many successes of others.

Other days, I resent them. Like a semi-stalker, I will scroll through and feel the cracks in my self esteem widening. I forget my own accomplishments and the fact that somewhere, someone may feel the same way about my own feed from time to time.

Since I purged my social media of friends and family and use it only for my writing now, I feel a little less inhibited. I don’t have to fear the phone calls and feigned support which is usually just a dig for information. I find the network of people I write with to be more open and I am find it easier to write freely and the more I do, the easier it becomes to show my true self.

Still, the simple truth is that on social media, life is often filtered. We share the pretty parts and sometimes the ugly. Hell, sometimes even the ugly may not be the whole truth, only a concocted fiction, either in whole or in part. People love a good story and morbid curiosity will always be a draw.

Do I believe that everyone that writes a blissful status update or posts smiling photos on social media are wearing masks? Of course not. I read statuses every day that express unhappiness, anger, frustration, and guilt. I’ve even seen these negative emotions in photos, albeit rarely.

The truth is we never really know.

I recently read an article about a young girl whose Instagram and Facebook feeds were filled with candid shots of her seemingly happy life. She was a college freshman at an Ivy League school and the real truth was that she was extremely depressed and having a very difficult time. Her family and friends knew things were different, off somehow,  but she looked so happy in her Instagram photos. She took, and filtered, a beautiful photo of holiday lights in the trees at Rittenhouse Square in Philly an hour before she jumped from a nine story parking garage and ended her life. This young woman filtered out the demon of depression which, as many of us know, hides so very well.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to totally rid myself of some type of filter. I have years of practice hiding my true feelings, putting my best face forward, and burying truths. Just today I shared some personal news with some friends online that I trust wholeheartedly. I typed the status six times – six! – backspaced it out, typed it again and hit enter, deleted it, and then finally typed it, hit enter, and left it.

I felt sick.

I was worried I would look weak, desperate. Ironically, it was in a moment of weakness and despair.

So, the truth is…

I have moments where I fall to pieces. I cry, I rant, I throw things, and I look like shit because I haven’t showered in four days.

Things in my life go wrong and don’t make sense.

My kids aren’t perfect. They are real jerks sometimes.

I get jealous of my peers when they are writing brilliance and I can’t put three words together.

And, the truth is….

I am a strong woman but I am human. I get depressed and angry and tired and fed up and scared, but you will likely never see it.

My kids are brilliant, I love them fiercely, and I am proud of them every day, jerks or not. That you will likely see a lot.

I am proud of my friends for their accomplishments. Writing is a bitch of a thing whether you do it as a hobby, a passion, or to make a living. Getting it noticed is monumental. I applaud you. I will try to let you know that more often.

I made a conscious decision when I started this blog to be honest and to write free. Sharing these words on social media takes that one step further and, aside from the unfortunate Barbie-like selfie, I think I have held true to that promise. I do it in hopes of trying to form real connections, something that isn’t very easy for me.

But I keep trying.

So use your filters wisely. Make your pictures prettier, hide a few superficial flaws. There is nothing wrong with it.  Show the world your best but don’t hide your worst. You don’t have to show it to the world. But show it to someone.

In times of despair, or just the need for human connection, relinquish perfection for honesty.

I will leave you with this short video from my beautiful friend, Hasty. She sums it up so eloquently in just 15 seconds:

Carpe Librum: Dear Stephanie by Mandi Castle

When the call went out offering an advance copy of Mandi Castle’s debut novel, Dear Stephanie, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Being a friend of whose writing I am already a fan, I thought I had an idea what to expect.

I was wrong.

It was better.

Paige Preston is beautiful, aesthetically enhanced in any and every way possible in the quest for perfection. She’s filthy rich and lives an incredibly priveleged life.

If you don’t hate her already then let me add that gorgeous men fall at her feet, not caring they are only being used to quell her addiction to sex. She uses her sexuality to get what she wants from whomever she wants it, then leaves them bleeding in her wake. Top that off with her bitterness toward her family, her drug habit, and her disregard for human emotion and you have a full on despicable bitch.

But….Mandi Castle has proven that she is a master of the twist. As the tale unfolds you learn what has molded Paige into the woman she is. Looks and privelege aside…..she is a vessel filled with pain and torment. A shattered vessel, broken beyond repair.

Or is she?

It’s very difficult to write a review on a book that you just want to read out loud to the world to make certain that they get the chance to experience the story. It reaches in and doesn’t just touch the many different levels of human emotion; it grabs on and doesn’t let go.

In the end, you may still find that you hate Paige, but you will also find that you love her, some may even be able to empathize to an extent.

The emotional ride this book took me on left me sitting still, mouth hanging open, then shouting (as well as one can on Facebook) at my friend, this brilliant author, asking her how she could do this to me.

I sit here in hopes that soon I will have the privilege of reading what happens after….

A masterfully written debut novel. Congratulations, Mandi! And very well done.

Now, with the author’s permission, a small look into the mind of Paige Preston. Should you require more, Dear Stephanie is available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.


My first suicide attempt happened completely spontaneously, as a reaction to what happened with Mr. Preston. Every other time, it’s been calculated, planned. I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach, a dull ache, and then slowly, darkness begins to surround me, and the voices in my head start, whispering at first, and then gradually their volume increases to screams until I feel like I am at the bottom of a hole with no light, and I’m suffocating, unable to take a deep breath, unable to focus, and unable to make it stop.

Then a calmness comes over me, the voices hush, and it feels like warm honey being poured over my head until my body can feel agaim, and I know what to do. Sometimes it comes slowly, and sometimes more rapidly, but every time, the answer is the same. Depression is a monster. He seeks me and haunts me and tries to pull me into the darkness.

I keep getting the dull ache. I know it’s there. I feel it, and I can’t shake it. The voices whisper, “You know what to do. Do it. Do it. Do it.” The voices convince me that the world is better off without me, that I’m doing myself and everybody who knows me a favor by making my exit, and most of the time, I believe their words.

This time though, I don’t want to believe it. As much as Blake makes me happy, I can tell I do the same for him, or at least, I did until he disappeared.

~From Dear Stephanie, a debut novel by Mandi Castle

Dear Stephanie Amazon



Mandi Castle

Mandi Castle is a daydreaming stay at home mom of two who spends most her time reading and writing. She loves watching football, is obsessed with music, and has a serious addiction to smart funny people. She can often be caught having dance parties in her kitchen in Dallas, Texas. To connect more visit her at mandicastle.com.

You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Bleacher Report

“You a white whore!”

Those were the words that got my attention first also perking the ears of my twelve year old daughter who was sitting right next to me.

“Ugh! Shut the fuck up!”

“You a FAT white whore! Let’s go to the parking lot. I’ll (unintelligible) at your car!”

“SHUT UP! I wasn’t even talking to you but you have to open your mouth and start….” *makes a yak-yak talking motion with her hand*

“You a fat, white whore. I’ll see YOU after the game.” Looks down at the child next to her,  whose approximate age is four, maybe five, and points. “Yeah…you hear that fat white woman right there. Mmm hmmm.”

“Fine with me. Let’s go. Why are you even in the middle of this? I wasn’t even talking to you. Shut the fuck up.”

The white woman looks over at a brave fan who was asking them to remember where they are. “I’m trying but she won’t shut the fuck up.”

Where were they? A kid’s football game.

There were more nasty words exchanged, repeated promises of meeting in the parking lot, blah, blah, blah….and then it ended as suddenly as it started.

**I feel that I have to put this disclaimer in so as not to seem racist or anti-redneck, because I am neither.  The devil is in the details. Yes, it was a black woman and a white woman of redneck persuasion (which I point out not to be politically incorrect but because it’s true). **

These women are in the stands of my son’s first tackle football game and talking trash at one another, threatening violence, and it all started because the white redneck woman made a joke to one of the water carriers on the field and for whatever reason it offended the the black woman.

It was ugly.

And it was sad.

I don’t care about the color of their skin. I don’t care about their lifestyle. I don’t care about how they dress, what kind of car they drive, or where they live.  I don’t care about what they had for breakfast and I don’t care if they use paper or plastic.

I do care that two grown women decided to have a loud, ridiculously uncalled for argument filled with obscene words and hate speech in the bleachers at my son’s football game. I feel safe in assuming that they were there for sons or other family members of their own.

The bleachers were full of kids of all ages. There were parents, grandparents, and family friends. As an avid observer, I couldn’t help but look around and notice the looks on the faces of others. Some were amused. Some seemed embarrassed. Some were frustrated or angry.

The only thing that kept me from telling them to take their childish bullshit to the parking lot and just get ‘er done was the fact that I’ve never been a fan of getting beat up and, at the age of 46, I don’t run as fast as I used to. Then there is the whole ‘want to set a good example for my children’ thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect and my kids are not naive to the colorful words (although ‘whore’ was not one I really wanted to explain). It was the vile and hateful words and very public show of ignorance and inconsideration that bothered me the most.

Wrong time, wrong place, ladies (a term I use loosely) but, truly, there isn’t a right time or right place for that behavior. Ever. Except prison. Maybe.

It is my belief that sports programs for kids are to promote exercise, fun, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. It’s fantastic family time. Nothing gets under my skin more than grown people at kids’ sporting events that can’t behave. These women were just two more on a long list of adults acting like idiots at the many, many kids’ sports events I have attended.

I have seen men go at women, women go at men, men go at men, and women go at women. I have heard coaches yelling at players for their own just plain stupid play calls and then watched those kids hang their heads in shame. I’ve seen coaches throw hats and clipboards and on one occasion, I shit you not, a coach throw himself on the ground in the end zone at a 6U flag football game. 6U is, you may have guessed, 5 and 6 year old children.

I think maybe some of us have forgotten why we’re there in the first place.

I get it….I like to win, too. Seriously, does anyone like to lose?

I don’t like everyone in the stands. I mean, who likes everybody? Some people are just plain obnoxious but I live by the philosophy  ‘Not my circus. Not my monkeys.’, not to mention ‘Karma is a bitch.’ If it is my circus or my monkeys, well….I like to think I would act like an adult.

It’s you who thinks you’re at the Superbowl or you own the field. It’s you who thinks your kid is going to earn a full scholarship to his or her (our your) college of choice based on their performance in this one game.

These are kids, people. They are watching. They are learning. And, yes, they are emulating. They just want to have fun, hang with their friends, and play a game.

So please fucking behave.






photo credit: via photopin (license)